Helping older workers stay in the workforce

The Great Recession was a big hit for our nation’s older workers. They lost jobs and retirement savings, forcing them to delay retirement and stay in the workforce longer.

For baby boomers and older Gen Xers, who hoped to be logging retirement time about now, that’s not great news. But, for many reasons, it’s a good thing for employers.

Older workers bring with them expertise, long-term knowledge and institutional history that can be a boon for today’s workplaces. And, just because their hair is graying, it doesn’t mean they’re slowing down. In fact, one study from North Carolina State University found that older computer programmers actually know as much – and even more – than their younger co-workers.

Still, aging workers bring their own set of issues thanks, in large part, to one simple fact: They’re getting older. The graying workforce is forcing employers to make changes related to workers’ compensation and other insurance claims, but it’s slow going. In a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, 36 percent of respondents said their workplace is just beginning to look at policies and practices related to older workers.

We cover the issue much more in a recent article in Property Casualty 360, but here are four things to keep in mind as your workforce gets older.

  • The risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases increase as we age. So do medical bills. In fact, the American Diabetes Association found that medical costs are double the amount for people with diabetes.
  • The majority of baby boomers are either overweight or obese, leading to higher risk for conditions such as hypertension, vascular disease and arthritis. Obesity also can restrict a person’s abilities at work.
  • More time is required for bone and wound healing. In fact, aging skin can take up to four times as long to fix itself.
  • Joint range of motion declines with age.

As you celebrate the successes and wins of your older workers, it’s critical for employers to ensure they set them up for success.